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Colorado Student Media Association


Colorado Student Media Association


Colorado Student Media Association


Designer of the Year

NOTE: Each current CSMA member medium may sponsor ONE portfolio, by ONE student journalist. Each student may only enter one category (e.g., either Reporter or Designer, but not both).

What is this?

 This contest honors designs from print publications (newspaper/newsmagazine/magazine and yearbook) publications from this school year that demonstrate broad excellence.

This competition requires the journalist to submit actual designs in a portfolio format. All portfolios will be viewed on computer screens. Do not print and mail your portfolio.

The designer who submits the top portfolio will be named the CSMA Designer of the Year. The winner receives a prize of $250 and the winner’s program receives a check for an additional $250.

The online form for all entries in this competition is here.Please note that the entire form must be completed in one sitting — the system will not save partial forms.

What is a portfolio?
Entrants should select a maximum of 10 examples of their design work created during the current school year and place them in a portfolio folder (to be shared through Dropbox or some other sharing site) or on a website (a personal site, perhaps using WordPress.com free hosting, or Weebly).

The general purposes of a portfolio include helping attain scholarships and getting hired as a journalist, among other things. This specific portfolio is to demonstrate a designer’s skills to best communicate information to specific audiences.

What will judges look for?
Judges want to see a range of work that shows consistency of skill and artistry.

Some advice from veteran judges: Your portfolio is only as strong as your weakest design, so judges advise you to NOT include 10 spreads just to be including the maximum entries. If you have 10 terrific spreads/pages/examples, by all means, use them all. Judges will look for your “voice” as a designer (your personality and your design “vocabulary”), for versatility in content, and for technical excellence.

Along with the PDF of each design, please include brief annotations that include context for the design, some thoughts on why the designer chose this particular example, and anything else that a judge should take into consideration. These annotations may be on a separate Word document, but should be clearly keyed to individual samples of your work.

Check out http://studentpress.org/nspa/awards/2015-design-of-the-year/ for a wide range of national award-winning designs from the past. You need NOT include examples of your work in all these award areas. We encourage anyone considering entering to browse through last year’s winning entry. 

Who may enter?
Each current CSMA member medium may sponsor ONE portfolio, by ONE student journalist. Entrants may be of any grade, but must have been a staff member of at least one student medium at the school. The designs in the portfolio must have been published to qualify, or, in the case of yearbook spreads, will be published in this year’s book.

How do we enter?
Carefully gather high resolution PDF copies of your best work since last August. Place them in one folder, which you share through Dropbox or some similar file sharing site, or share through your Flickr account (or some similar service), or through your own page on a website. All entries must use the online application form – and then the portfolios will be distributed to the judges by CSMA.

When is the deadline for submission?
Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. MT, April 15.

When do we get results?
Judging will be finished by May 15, and CSMA will announce first, second and third place winners, during the last week of May. Award certificates will be mailed to schools. This contest is not a critique, so only general comments from the judges will be shared.

There are no enrollment classifications for this contest. Again, all grades are eligible.

Top portfolios may also be shared through the CSMA social media and website following judging and notification of winners.

What if we have more questions?
Contact Elise Carlson at [email protected] or call 970.930.1877.

Past Winners
2023 – Gabriella Polliard, Brighton HS – See her portfolio here. Read the judge’s comments here.
2022 – Serena Nguyen, Regis Jesuit HS – See her portfolio here.
2021 – Amanda Brauchler, Rock Canyon HS – See her portfolio here. Read judge Mitch Eden’s comments here.
2020 – Emma Shea, Rock Canyon HS – See her portfolio here. Read judge Mitch Eden’s comments here.
2019 – Rebecca Wadsworth, Brighton HS – See her portfolio here.
2018 – McKenna Nylander, Lewis-Palmer HS
2017 – William Satler, Brighton HS
2016 – Megan Metzger-Seymour, Standley Lake HS